By Anna Grace Moore
Photos by Casey Irwin with James and Rachel Culver
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the breakfast. Ladybird Taco serves only the best and freshest ingredients, inspired by the Texas taco scene.
What originally started as the brain child of founder Gabe Scott has now snowballed into a franchise with a grip on both Nashville and Birmingham cuisine.
Gabe, who was a practicing musician in Nashville, decided to pursue a career in the food industry to spend more time with his family and do something that made him excited to wake up and go to work every day, food.
Gabe loves tacos—everything about the richness of the flavors. Gabe’s wife’s grassroots are planted in Houston, which is what ignited the idea for a fast-casual breakfast taco concept.
Ladybird Taco opened in 2020 in 12 South in Nashville with the help of co-founders Ben Edgerton and Andrew Wiseheart, who both live in Texas. Andrew, according to Ladybird Taco’s Board President Brooks Veazey, is a “baller chef.” Andrew was actually featured in Food and Wine Magazine, too.
“A lot of what we’re doing, ‘breakfast tacos,’ makes sense in Texas,” Brooks says. “What we’re wanting to do is bring breakfast tacos to the Southeast. All the tacos are numbered on the menu. If you look around Ladybird Taco, it is a really simple, subtle place. Our menu is the same. We’re trying to make everything feel approachable. All the tacos are wrapped with a number around them. The number four (add potato) is chorizo, egg and cheese.”
Brooks joined the Ladybird Taco team in June 2021, helping open Birmingham’s first location in Lane Parke on Monday, Feb. 13. When asked, ‘Why Mountain Brook,’ Brooks responded that the niche community ties remind him and the other owners of the community in Nashville. Both have such great community members that love to support each other’s business endeavors.
Brooks actually graduated from Oak Mountain High School and now lives in Bluff Park with his wife, Mary Ann, and their two children. Brooks met Mary Ann while they attended the University of Alabama. Then, he planned on becoming a physical therapist.
Very quickly, he realized he did not want to go into PT school and began looking for other opportunities.
“I’ve always had some form of an entrepreneurial bone in me,” Brooks says, reflecting on his experience in the food industry. “When I turned 16, I started [working for] Dippin’ Dots at the Birmingham Barons games. I got connected with a guy named David Sanford, who was a partner in Taziki’s in Tuscaloosa. He became a mentor to me. He hired me for Dippin’ Dots, then he hired me at Taziki’s in college. He made it fun for me.”
Brooks began working at concession stands in college, expanding his repertoire as a soon-to-be restaurater.
“My brother was over Steel City Pops at the Summit and Homewood,” Brooks explains. “He asked me to help them open up the [Tuscaloosa location].”
After a successful launch, Brooks and Mary Ann later moved to Austin to help open up another Steel City Pops location. By the time he was 25, he and Mary Ann had successfully help launched 10 locations across the Southeast, including popular storefronts in Louisville, San Antonio and Dallas Fort-Worth.
“I am really proud of what we built,” Brooks says.
Life, however, has a funny way of throwing a 180-degree curve ball, completely changing everything. Enter stage right, the Covid-19 pandemic.
Brooks and Mary Ann moved back home to Birmingham during the pandemic, where Brooks took a job at Landing–a short-term rental company that leases local apartments.
“Marcus Higgins and Bill Smith were both incredibly kind to me,” Brooks says.
Marcus, who is the COO of Landing, and Bill, who is the CEO, took Brooks under their wing, helping him learn the “ins and outs” of building a business.
“When Bill hired me, I was one of the first hundred employees,” Brooks recalls. “He was like, ‘You’re not qualified, but we’ll give you a chance.’ I literally use that stuff that he and Marcus [taught me] every day.”
Brooks spent a year at Landing before meeting Gabe and falling in love with the community that is Ladybird Taco.
Now having successfully launched Ladybird Taco’s second brick and mortar restaurant, Brooks, Gabe, Ben and Andrew plan to open up a third location in Nashville and hopefully, a fourth location in Birmingham in 2024.
Per the website’s mission statement, Ladybird Taco is “on a mission to enable a life-giving community by specializing in breakfast and lunch tacos. Modeled after the taco scene in Austin, Texas, Ladybird serves house-made tortillas, queso, salsa and salads from fresh ingredients, alongside full barista service all day.”
In fact, Ladybird Taco sources ingredients from several local vendors such as June Coffee, Harvest Root and Last Call Bakery. Supporting local businesses is essential to the owners’ view of building relationships.
Relationships, Brooks says, are key to tenuring success. The phrase, “life-giving community,” actually refers to Gabe having a near-death experience, struggling with meningitis several years ago.
When Gabe was diagnosed, “Andrew and Ben came to run the store in Nashville,” Brooks explains. The community rallied around Gabe, with volunteers crawling out of the woodworks just to keep the business alive. That same community is but one reason many employees join the team.
“It does take a village,” Brooks says.
He is quick to credit Jackson Graham and Carly Zubiria, who are the general managers of the Birmingham and Nashville locations, as well as Ben Cleveland, who is the director of restaurant openings. Nothing would be possible without these leaders and the hard-working staff at both locations, Brooks adds.
On a personal level, Brooks says Mary Ann and his mother inspire him to be the best version of himself. His mother actually sowed a seed of entrepreneurship in him at a young age.
“My mom owned Blades, which was a hair salon in Vestavia on 31,” Brooks says. “My whole life she owned that. I grew up on weekends and stuff, answering phones and washing hair. My mom introduced me to small business along with David Sanford. My wife and I have had a lot of people help us on the way. Doing what we’ve done is not easy. It takes a lot of patience and care to do something that actually impacts the community.”
While dreams are not usually a good business plan, they do help one envision what is possible, despite what seems unattainable. Brooks’s dream, he says, is to help coach young leaders who one day may just open up Ladybird Taco franchises or start their own endeavors. Either way, he says the best part of his job is the people, both the ones that have invested in him and those he will have the chance to help thrive.
And that, investing in one another through hard work and dedication, is a good business plan.
For a taste of Texas heat with a Nashville flare, visit Ladybird Taco in Lane Parke at 300 Rele Street. It is open every day from 6 a.m.-4 p.m. Customers can follow Ladybird Taco on Instagram and Facebook and tag, @ladybirdtaco, in their photos, too. Visit ladybirdtaco.com for a full menu.
A Taste of Texas
Brooks recommends newcomers try the “number one,” which is a taco with bacon, egg and cheese. For those with a more diverse palate, he recommends his own personal favorite, the number four, which is made up of chorizo, egg and cheese, and he adds potatoes, too.